Writer: Sam Penix
Summary: That was not a great way to kick off the Kevin Stefanski era. The box score looks terrible, and it’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned, but this year’s blowout doesn’t feel like 2019’s did. You could see the way the Browns wanted to play offense, at least until the end of the half swing put them in a hole too deep to climb out of. There wasn’t enough opportunity to really get into a rhythm, but the glimpses were there. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt had some strong runs and Baker Mayfield was under center often.
The offensive and defensive lines both played well, which is a great sign. The rest of the position groups, not so much. The Bengals are not the Ravens, but Cincy’s defense is still solid. Mayfield needs to be more decisive on Thursday, and his receivers need to help him out by getting open. With David Njoku on injured reserve, Austin Hooper needs to finish with more than two catches.
The defense will once again have its hands full, as Joe Burrow is capable of methodically picking apart any secondary, especially one as banged-up as Cleveland’s. The Browns DL should be able to get consistent pressure on Burrow, but if the rookie gets time to throw, he’ll be able to score points.
We need to be looking for consistent improvement week to week from this coaching staff, and it’s hard to do much improving on a short week. Still, a repeat of game one is unacceptable, and things should look much better in primetime. The Browns should be able to win based on talent alone, so of course, a Cody Parkey field goal will be the difference, leading to the fanbase falling in love with him until he inevitably misses an extra point somewhere down the line.
Prediction: Cleveland 27, Cincinnati 24